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‘No sale on’ for Kingdom’s sovereignty gov’t tells IPU

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Council of Ministers spokesperson Phay Siphan speaks to the media after an event in 2015 in Phnom Penh. Heng Chivoan

‘No sale on’ for Kingdom’s sovereignty gov’t tells IPU

The government on Friday hit back at the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU), warning that Cambodia has the right to “withdraw itself” from the body.

A former lawmaker said such a move would isolate the Kingdom internationally after the IPU called for all charges against Kem Sokha to be dropped and for his court-dissolved Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) to be reinstated.

Council of Ministers spokesman Phay Siphan on Sunday strengthened the government’s position on the matter. He said Cambodia, as a sovereign state, would not countenance any interference regarding the Kingdom’s laws.

A government spokesman said on Friday that Cambodia would “withdraw itself” from the IPU if there was another “violation” or further “interference” from the international parliamentary body.

“Cambodia maintains the full right at all times to withdraw itself from any international institution if there is a violation or interference in the sovereignty and interests of Cambodia, as other sovereign countries have withdrawn themselves from some international organisations [when they] think those organisations violate their sovereignty and interests,” a government statement said.

In a four-page resolution dated October 18, the IPU, an international institution consisting of the parliaments of more than 170 countries, listed the names of senior officials from the CNRP and highlighted 12 points regarding the political situation in the Kingdom.

A Cambodian government delegation, led by deputy vice-president of the National Assembly Khuon Sodary, attended the 139th IPU General Assembly from October 14-18 in Geneva, Switzerland under the theme Parliamentary Leadership in Promoting Peace and Development in the Age of Innovation and Technological Change.

Former CNRP president Sam Rainsy was also invited to the event.

The IPU resolution on October 18 urged “once again all Cambodian authorities to immediately release Kem Sokha and drop the charges [against him] to allow him to resume his duties as president of the opposition without further delay and restriction, and to reinstate the CNRP”, a call strongly rejected by the Cambodian delegation.

The Cambodian government said its goals and direction regarding the IPU were to “promote and strengthen the culture of dialogue”, which had been established, “but this political dialogue has no effect on the law of Cambodia”.

Siphan said on Sunday that Cambodia would “not change its stance”. He said Cambodia is a “sovereign state” and that no country can violate the laws of the Kingdom.

“The dissolution of the CNRP is not a political crisis based on a matter of ‘face’ [but] a matter of law decided by the courts."

“We cannot [consider] any statement or pressure which orders Cambodia to violate or annul the verdict of the Supreme Court because we believe Cambodia is in a state of strengthening its rule of law."

“I want to inform … there is no change in the position of the government. Cambodia will not walk away from the implementation of its constitution. There is no sale of the sovereignty and independence [of the Kingdom] on offer to foreign countries to control Cambodia,” he said.

Former CNRP lawmaker Ou Chanrath said the government’s warning to the IPU is “ridiculous” because if Cambodia were to withdraw itself from the body, the Kingdom would face isolation from the international community.

“I saw the government’s letter [warning] the IPU. It is ridiculous because the IPU is a huge international organisation consisting of more than 170 countries."

“Cambodia would be alone and continue to accuse others of interfering in its internal affairs, using sovereignty and independence as pretexts to prevent others from calling for change. We should follow the agreements we have signed with them."

“It is not a good situation. Once we withdraw ourselves, it means we isolate ourselves from the world and we will lose a lot of benefits for Cambodia and Cambodians,” he claimed.

Thomas Fitzsimons, the director of communications at the IPU, could not be reached for comment on Sunday.

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